I’m very excited to present to you the next edition of our Meet The Dev series. It was an absolute pleasure to interview Mike Mika, the creator of the Xbox One smash hit, #iDarb. Read on to find out about Mike’s gaming inspirations and how an innocent question from his young daughter led him to mod a popular game.
What is your preferred gaming platform?
Who or what inspired you to become a games developer?
I was fortunate enough to be born just before video games truly came into existence, so when I saw Space Invaders at my local Drive-In theatre, and the crowd surrounding it, I had seen something unprecedented. When I learned about home computers and how I could program my own games, I became intoxicated with the idea of designing worlds and adventures on a platform with seemingly endless potential. I could take what was in my head and produce it on my own with a little bit of work. Movies, to me, were a lot harder to do and required teams of people to succeed. With a computer, I could do it all on my own: Art, music, programming, design… it was empowering.
What are you most proud of in your gaming/development career so far?
It’s really hard to pinpoint a single thing. Years ago, I was playing Donkey Kong with my 3-year-old daughter, and she asked me why she couldn’t play as the girl and save Mario. It was a simple request, and one I could fulfil because of what I do. So I spent the next night hacking the game to let her do just that: Play as Pauline and rescue Mario. The story of it went viral (to my surprise). It suddenly inspired others to mod and create and think about the dynamics of gender and the role it plays in games. I couldn’t have been more proud of that moment and my daughter for asking the right question. I still look to her for advice and guidance in my work.
What is your goal in terms of games development?
I think Toru Iwatani, the designer of Pac-Man, said it best when he describes what a game designer’s job is. “[A game designer is] someone who designs projects to make people happy.” That’s my goal: To make people happy.
What is your gamer handle and the reason for choosing it?
I have a few – for different occasions. If I’m going to play a violent first-person shooter with a lot of immature testosterone-fueled gamers, I use Tinkerbell – Brohards go crazy when they think someone with that name is destroying them.
What is your favourite genre/s of game and why?
I tend to play a lot of Indie games these days … They remind me of older, shorter, arcade games that I used to play. Luftrausers, for instance, is like the mash-up of some of my favourite games: Time Pilot, Two Tigers, and Defender.
What is your favourite game of all time?
Galaga, hands down. Normally when I am asked this, I struggle in my head over whether to say Robotron or not, but overall, I have spent way more time playing Galaga. I can always just start playing and be in my happy place. I recently went to Austin for the premiere of Ready Player One, and at the after party, they had a Galaga machine set up right next to the stage where Joan Jett was playing live. I couldn’t let it sit there unplayed, so one of my favourite moments in recent memory is playing Galaga to about 400k while Joan Jett literally played ten feet away from me while hanging out with some of my favourite people.
What is your most memorable gaming moment?
Finding out that if you jumped a very particular way at the top of the map in Mountain King for Atari 2600, you could jump really high and discover an entirely new area. It was mind blowing – very similar to the negative worlds later in Super Mario Bros. Turns out, that the whole area is the RAM for the game, so when things turn on and off on screen or move, it’s the game logic being displayed as a playable map.
What is your Gamerscore/trophy count and how long has it taken you to get it?
It’s super low – I have several accounts, and I don’t grind. I couldn’t tell you what it is. It might be good right now thanks to my kids playing with my account. I wouldn’t even know!
Which achievement/trophy has given you the most pleasure? Why and how long did it take you?
I don’t remember the individual achievements, but grinding in Geometry Wars 2 was very satisfying. I still have plenty to go, but those stand out to me.
What is your gaming guilty pleasure?
Playing Turok Rage Wars on the N64. Woefully overlooked because most people thought it was just the OTHER Turok 2 game. But instead, it is a brilliant four player split-screen FPS with really innovative weapons. The cerebral bore is still one of my favourite weapons of all time in any game.
If you could pick a video game character, who would you be and why?
Interesting …. for some reason my mind keeps offering up Kirby. There is no one happier than that pink marshmallow. And happiness is all we really want, right?
If you could pick a location, from any game, to visit, where would it be and why?
The ring in Halo. Despite the Flood, the Covenant, etc… It really is beautiful and seems like a brilliant vacation spot with its views of space and the Halo itself. Also, the offroading looks like great fun, and there is plenty of great architecture to use as backgrounds for selfies.
Finally, where do you see gaming heading in the next decade?
I think we’ll see more gaming go outdoors with AR. At least I hope so. Vitamin D is free out there. Also, AR (unlike VR) is a whole new world of tethered potential that I think would meet the criteria for true innovation in gaming.
A huge thank you to Mike for taking the time to answer our questions. Keep an eye on the website and Twitter for information on how you can feature in the next Tic Spotlight or Meet the Gamer.